The Washington Times - April 12, 2013, 09:58AM

A short while after his night of work was over, his five innings of work in which he allowed three runs off 10 hits in the books, Dan Haren offered arguably the truest assessment of what he’d done.

“Today, I took a few steps forward,” Haren said. “Obviously, I did a little better than last time. But I still haven’t been at my best.”

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Haren did improve from his first outing. His ground ball/fly ball ratio improved by 34 percent and he got almost twice as many ground balls as he did last Friday night in Cincinnati. 

But there were still issues.

“I think last time I was almost aggressive to a fault, (Thursday) I still had no walks but had a few deeper counts,” Haren said. “I just think that getting the ball down a little bit more is probably key for next game. I made a few less mistakes today, but I still got work to do to get better.

“I have kind of shown flashes of how I can be, but I didn’t really put it all together. I just haven’t really got it going, no 1-2-3 innings or anything like that. I haven’t really found that groove, but we won.”

Manager Davey Johnson agreed with that evaluation, but was sure to point out that he saw progress from Haren’s first start to his second. The veteran right-hander will face the Miami Marlins next week in his third outing.

“He’s throwing the ball good,” Johnson said. “He’s got good velocity. That was one thing that was missing last year. But it’s command. It’s all about command, making your pitches. He was up a lot (Thursday).”

If the first nine games of the season are any indication, the Marlins might be just what the doctor ordered for Haren to take that final leap forward into the pitcher he knows he can be. The Marlins have scored 16 runs the entire season, the lowest total in the major leagues and 42 fewer than the MLB-leading Oakland Athletics. 

“Danny’s actually been throwing the ball well,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “Danny’s going to be fine. He’s done this for a long time and he goes out there and competes. I thought he threw the ball well the last two times and just had some bad luck.”

Haren also had a good sense of humor about his prowess, or lack thereof, on the basepaths, saying bluntly: “I’m not fast.”

His bat came in with a reputation, and he stroked a double to right field in the fourth. His run was important, as it stood up for the game winner, even if he didn’t exactly break any records on the basepaths to get it.

“You guys saw my speed,” Haren said. “I apologize to (Jayson Werth) I didn’t score on his single, but I probably wouldn’t have scored on a double anyways. Swinging is not like riding a bike, it takes some time to get back. I’m glad I made some good contact though.

“I didn’t think there would be a scenario where I would be able to come home on a wild pitch, then of course the first pitch went to the backstop and then I was driving home. So that was good.”

– There’s a good chance that Drew Storen will be the Nationals’ closer on Friday night, should they need one, against the Braves. Rafael Soriano has worked the last three games, and appeared in six of the Nationals’ nine contests this season.

“It’s possible,” Johnson said, when asked if he’d try to stay off Soriano on Friday and use Storen instead.